Caterpillar defect and lawsuit was ‘a hell of a nightmare’ for truckers

April 19, 2018

Tyson Fisher


Thousands of drivers who bought a truck with a defective Caterpillar engine received a smaller portion of the $60 million settlement after a major error in a class action lawsuit settlement calculation. In the aftermath, some truckers shared their stories about how the defect went beyond repair costs.

Of the thousands of claims submitted, many came from owner-operators. Land Line spoke with two class members who each received a little less than $7,000 in the checks issued on March 30. On top of a 45.8 percent reduction, they are likely to receive even less in the final round of checks.

Driven out of the industry
OOIDA life member Dave Marson, 61, has been deeply involved with the trucking industry.

Marson bought his truck with the defective Caterpillar engine in February 2008. Marson told Land Line that problems were continuous almost from the beginning.

According to the suit, the anti-pollution system called Caterpillar Regeneration System failed under normal conditions. Engines lost horsepower or completely shut down.

Not even the experts at the shop could stop the problem from reoccurring, which was acknowledged in the lawsuit. Marson said each visit to the shop cost him between $2,000 and $3,000.

In total, Marson estimates that repair costs due to the faulty engine cost him at least $30,000. That only accounts for direct losses from the defective Caterpillar engine.

However, Marson said he lost much more when accounting for downtime.

“I called it my million-dollar truck,” Marson joked.

But the check Marson received on March 30 was for less than $7,000. To make matters worse, he said a stop payment on the check was issued because of the administrative error. Marson is likely to receive less when the final check comes in the mail.

Dave Marson received this settlement check on March 30. A stop payment was issued and the final check is likely to be less. Marson estimates he lost tens of thousands of dollars as a result of the faulty Caterpillar engine.


Even though Marson had a contract running the mines and ice roads of Canada, the mounting costs of the Caterpillar ended up being too much.

“Ultimately, it bankrupted my company, and I went out of trucking,” Marson said. “I walked away from trucking and never looked back.”

“It’s been a hell of a nightmare for me,” Marson said.

Tens of thousands of dollars down the drain
OOIDA member Tim Morgan received his check on March 30. Even though he received thousands of dollars, more than many other recipients, Morgan says he was disappointed in the amount. He told Land Line his calculation of the actual damages is much higher.

“This cost me about $40,000 in total,” Morgan said.

Morgan said the costs went beyond the burden of repairs and maintenance. He said that drivers with only one truck lost thousands of dollars due to downtime.

Morgan estimates he lost an additional $15,000 to $17,000 in loss of value for his truck. He said he eventually sold the truck for far less than it would have sold for with a good engine.

Retirement delayed
OOIDA life member Leroy Bolton decided to buy a new truck that he planned on driving hard for about five years so that he could retire. Bolton took money out of his retirement fund to purchase a new Kenworth. With the money he saved on OOIDA’s cash back program, the driver swapped the engine with a Caterpillar.

Shortly after buying the truck, Bolton said the swapped Caterpillar engine continuously broke down. Eventually, the warranty lapsed and repairs were paid for out of pocket. Even when the truck was under warranty, he said thousands of dollars went down the drain in lost opportunities.

Bolton said that he and his wife, Bess, had to refinance their home to avoid foreclosure. With only a few years left on the mortgage before problems with the truck, he said the couple has now tacked on up to 20 more years of payments.

“We watched ourselves go into a ditch,” Bess said.

Eventually, his truck was repossessed.

Expecting to retire at 65, the faulty Caterpillar engine pushed the driver’s retirement age up another five to eight years.

Leroy received a check on March 30 for less than $1,000. Originally, he was told he could get roughly $15,000. It’s still unclear whether or not his share will be reduced.

“People were hurt,” Bess said. “People were destroyed.”

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A dozen lawsuits now filed against Caterpillar over ACERT engines
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